An application to set aside an arbitral award is not in the nature of an appeal against the award.


NITEL Ltd. v. Okeke [2017] 9 NWLR (Pt. 1571) 439 at 473, paras. A-C; 474, paras. A-B, per Kekere-Ekun, JSC:

“At the outset, I must say that learned counsel for the respondent correctly stated the position of the law that arbitration proceedings are sui generis. An application to set aside an arbitral award is not in the nature of an appeal against the award. An arbitral award is regarded as a final and conclusive judgment on all matters referred and the courts are enjoined, as far as possible, to uphold and enforce arbitral awards, having regard to the fact that it is a model of dispute resolution voluntarily agreed upon by the parties.”

“To underscore the fact that the court does not sit on appeal over an arbitral award, it is to be noted that even where the court finds merit in an application to set aside an award, its jurisdiction is limited to setting aside the award and remitting it to the arbitrator for reconsideration. The court has no jurisdiction to determine the merits of the matter which is the subject of the arbitration proceedings. See A. Savoia Ltd. v. Sonubi [2000] 12 NWLR (Pt. 682) 539. In the instant appeal, I observe that a significant portion of the appellant’s brief is devoted to challenging the award. This is not proper.”

Blogger’s Note:

In other words, the decision of an arbitrator is final. However, there are circumstances under which the arbitral award may be challenged for the purpose of being set aside by the court – such as where the arbitrator has misconducted himself, where the arbitral proceedings or award was improperly procured or where the award contains decisions on matters which are beyond the scope of the submission to arbitration. See Sections 29(2) and 30(1) of the Arbitration and Conciliation Act, Cap. A18, Laws of the Federation of Nigeria, 2004. Notwithstanding, the salient point being made is that the jurisdiction of the court to set aside an award is not an appellate jurisdiction, as clearly explained by the learned Justice of the Supreme Court quoted above. An appreciation of this point is necessary in order to guide counsel in properly making and presenting the relevant arguments beyond a mere murmur of dissatisfaction. See Peter-Odili, JSC at p. 471 of the report.

You may read this well researched article on Setting Aside an Arbitral Award on Grounds of Misconduct. See also the case of Taylor Woodrow (Nig.) Ltd. v. S. E. GMBH [1993] 4 NWLR (Pt.286)127 at 142-144 SC cited in the above case and well quoted by Sanusi, JSC at p. 477-478 of the report.

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